Flying Blind

But flying all the same

How to Connect With an Introvert

For those of you who read this blog but do not know me personally, let me make something clear…

I am not an introvert.

Though I do not always enjoy being the middle of the crowd, I do enjoy being around people.  I love backpacking.  The only thing better than backpacking is backpacking with somebody else.  I have spent quite a few hours by myself sitting in the woods on hunting trips, but I would much rather spend that time sitting in the woods with somebody else.  I have found that I enjoy bird hunting more than big game hunting because it is a more social event.  Drawback… you have to kill a lot of birds to equal a deer.

I love who I am.

I love how I am.

There are still things about me that need to mature and develop, but on the whole… I love being me.

I have four kids.  When they were very young, they were your typical toddlers.  Into everything, running around, making noise, making a mess, spontaneous.  Our house seemed to vibrate constantly with the activity and noise that simmered perpetually within the walls.  My home is not a safe place for an introvert.  I understand that and so, when I am hanging out with an introvert, I meet with them outside of my home.  We meet somewhere quiet… like the mall…

I have all these ideas about ways to raise my kids.  I have these ideas about things to do in order to communicate just how much I love them and to really connect with them in a meaningful and intimate manner.

It never crossed my mind that any of my kids would turn out to be a calm, quiet, introvert.

What do I do with that?

How on earth do I communicate my love to a little girl who would like to just sit and look at a book… or look at art!

How did this happen?

On a more serious note, it really is pretty fascinating to see the budding personalities coming out of my kids.  My oldest is displaying her individual personality more and more.  The girl loves art.  We have a friend of ours who graduated with an art degree teaching private art lessons to my daughter.  I have found myself reading blogs from artists, both Christian and non, in order to broaden my ability to appreciate the same things my daughter appreciates.

Instead of going places and doing things with her, I have started making it a point to simply sit next to her.  We sit down to watch a movie and I invite her to sit next to me.  I try to make it a point to have her sit in my lap when I read books to them instead of always letting the toddlers sit on my lap.  I have started paying closer attention to which kids are running around downstairs and when I don’t see her, instead of calling her down to see what is wrong, I go upstairs just to sit on the floor of her bedroom with her and make small talk.

I take each of my kids to breakfast on Sunday mornings.  The oldest gets the first Sunday of the month, the youngest gets the last.  One of my kids wants to go to a busy sit down style place that serves great pancakes.  My oldest prefers to buy a donut and a juice in a grocery store and sit in the front of our car to eat.  I used to ask her why she preferred to sit in the car instead of going to a restaurant.  I do not ask any more.

I know she values these moments with me and I know they are good for her, good for me, and good for our relationship.

I have no clue how to evaluate these moments.  I see these times through my own perspective as an extrovert.  If I am comfortable, I am talking or doing, not sitting and stewing.  So when I sit with my daughter and we just sit there… something feels wrong.  When I ask a question and get a little short answer, I feel as though something is wrong.  I believe that things are not wrong, but that is how it feels.

It makes it very difficult to relax and just enjoy being with her when everything in me is convinced that something is wrong.  She must be upset with me.  I have to have hurt her feelings in order for her to sit so quietly for so long.

As I sit and analyze this, my questions tend to drift from wanting to connect with her to wanting to diagnose the break in our relationship.  It is so difficult to diagnose a problem that is not there.

I love my little girl and I know she loves me.

But I really wish I could figure out how to connect with her, and her introverted little soul.

Painting a Car

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25 Comments

  • You are already connecting with her! an introvert doesn’t need all that interaction that extroverts seem to need. To sit quietly together with you and just read a book, or watch a movie, is all she needs to know you are there and you love her, and she is content with this. I have spent my entire life being an introvert (which is probably why I feel I don’t communicate things well to people), and I believe it has made me a strong adult woman. I am capable of so much more than being the center of attention. And it also makes me a wonderful military wife. I am not the type that will go “crazy” in tears the day after he leaves for what I know will be a long deployment. Because I am confident in our love and the strength of our marriage that we will withstand the separation. Being introverted has made me who I am.

    • Thanks a lot for your comments and for reading the blog. I can see how being an introvert could help somebody get through tough times alone.

      Thanks for your input. Tell your family I said hi.

      • Not a problem 🙂 I think you guys are awesome. and would have loved to stay in better contact with you all. I know you disliked the decisions Jeffrey made when we got here, but its all about learning in life. (he is back home, btw.. we ran to michigan valentines weekend at the last minute to pick him up so he could come home.. he got a job 2 days later after not doing anything productive the last almost 3 years of being gone..) and the decision we have made as a family for what to do, how to handle the next two years.. I am confident that it is the right decision for our family even though it may be hard at times.. I will definitely tell all that you say hi…

  • I agree with Brigitte. Introverts need their “alone” time and down time. Connection can be in the form of quiet outings like those you have mentioned and simply together times. Dassahs parents are introverted and I love love love being in their house. I can sit at the kitchen table with my father-in-law for quite a long time and neither of us say a word. Its not that we dont know what to say, I know that I don’t have to say anything, and it puts me at peace. I’m not sitting there thinking, “what is he thinking about, is he upset with me, did I do something wrong?” He is just thinking of all the things going on in his head, and most of the time, he doesnt even realize I’m still there. I am borderline introvert/extrovert but spend the majority in the introvert area. I used to think introverts are brainless humans with no cognition of their own sitting in an empty little world wishing they could function as normal beings. I have since learned that introverts have as much going on that extroverts do. The difference is, introverts have all the same “goings on” inside their head, they just don’t express it like extroverts. This has caused major riffs in our marriage. I get upset at Dassah because shes not talking. Its not that she is mad, angry, upset, confused,etc… she just absolutely does not know how to express the magnitude of “stuff” going on in her head. So began the arduous process of finding the right questions to help my wife learn how to express what she is processing. And most of the time it involves me sitting there with her while she cries, for 30 minutes or so, not saying anything, wishing I were somewhere else, and then she hugs on me FOREVER, and says 5 words. Then 2 hours later she says the other half of what she was trying to say earlier. Oh the joys of introvertedness.

  • Hahaha!! Isn’t marriage so much FUN!?!?!
    Poor Jacob. I am very excessively introverted. At times I get so frusterated with myself. It’s just the way God made me…

    • I just KNEW that y’all were going to chime in on this. I was anticipating the feedback. Thanks so much for the input.

      • Yes, because this has been and sometimes is still a great struggle for us. Our marriage was completely tanking at one point and we were able to take the Meyers Briggs test and really start to appreciate our differences rather than try to change each other. With all my might I want to be different but I’m just not. Jacob has done an awesome job at figuring me out when I can’t even figure my own brain out.
        Just a small warning: Maybe the greatest struggle for an introvert that loves Jesus is that God has not called me to myself. After being in a bible study, church, dinner with friends, or party for twenty minutes my brain wants me to flee back home and lock the door behind me. I’m not gonna even mention meeting weekly with other girls!!! (this can be brutal!) I have to be diciplined to engage in the lives of others even when I don’t feel like it. When all needs are met, I reward myself with down time to recharge. (For me this is folding laundry on my bed with NO noise.) If you can funnel this in your introverted kids, then praise the Lord!

        • Agreed. I have had to practice going against the normal “programming” of my personality too. At the end of my time listening to somebody or being empathetic with them, then I get to recharge by hanging out with a group of folks who are busy going and doing.

          I want my kids to be comfortable with the way they are. You say that you want to be different and that communicates to me that at some point it was communicated to you that it would be better for you to be different than you already are. Did this come from our loud culture that values more extrovert tendencies? I would love to hear more about that thought pattern and where it came from for you… if you are willing to share it.

          • Sorry it is so long, but you asked:
            Yes, I’d have to say it is mostly the culture. Also, I am probably pretty scarred from people pushing me into situations that I don’t want to be in. (Peer presure) Arguments that have made huge issues in marriage have been pretty scarring as well.
            People say the word, “party” (in any form) and I want to vomit. I don’t care if it is a birthday party, I wanna run for the hills! “Girls lunch”, “girls night out”, “baby shower”, “wedding shower”, “group hike”, “Sunday school”, “family reunion” and “fellowship” will never be my idea of fun or excitement. These are all normal words for normal people. I just feel ill thinking about these things. How is this feeling of sickness over social gatherings normal for any individual in America? It isn’t. I just want to feel normal like everyone else seemingly does. I have been talked in to so many social events that I’d rather not go to. Everyone LOVES a party…except for me. Society functions around get togethers as I suffer through them. Why can’t I feel happy with so many people around me? I want to. I just don’t.
            Now, if you don’t think I am crazy enough, I’m gonna talk about the voices in my head. How can I get them to stop?!?!? All day long my brain goes a million miles an hour thinking in depth about e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g. It won’t stop. Even when I go to bed, I often can’t sleep because my brain won’t stop. This isn’t normal to other people because they need parties to get this “fun” sensation.
            I have learned over time that I can go to parties and pretend to be happy for the amount of time I need to. I care about others and don’t want to ruin their day. I also may meet a girl who God wanted me to bump into for His devine pleasure. All this to say that I have learned to function as an introvert in an extroverted world. What if, just what if…I could just enjoy it like everyone else seems to? Or what if I could sort through all the junk in my head to say what I want to say, when I need or want to say it? (I would get myself into huge trouble….which I’ve done before.)
            I do realize that God made me this way for a reason. When I am alone I have amazing times with my Maker who loves me most (and the dog). I enjoy time alone so much to recharge but it feels like it can’t ever be what society says is normal.
            Is this a good answer? I’m rambling…all those voices like to talk at once! 😉

          • I like long comments some times… this was a good one! Thanks for posting it.

            I think writing helps to give an expressive outlet to the “voices” in my head. I don’t call them voices because it is really just one voice, mine. And this one voice spends a lot of time talking about multiple subjects from different perspectives. Sometimes this runs pretty wild, and sometimes it is really focused.

            I read the word “scarred” as meaning the scars that are left after a traumatic event, and not as the past tense of being frightened… is that how you meant it? That answers the question I was asking. It would seem that my kids are super sensitive to, not just what I say and do, but the culture which I create, endorse, and expose them to. I wonder if having a firm affirming presence in the life of my little introvert will enable her to NOT develop the insecurities you mention… the huge pressure to be more like the rest of the world. I do not say this to say there is necessarily something wrong with you, we all have insecurities to one extent or another.

            Do you find that it is easier for you to express what is in your head and heart when you can sit by yourself and write it out?

            Thanks a lot for bearing your soul on here… not something I would expect so much from an inrovert. I really do appreciate your comments.

  • I think you are doing some of the right things. Just sitting there with her means a lot. Some kids just find it hard to speak about how they feel. Try writing her letters and tell her how much you love her and how you will always be there for her. Encourage her to write to you when you are not around for some reason, or just to tell you how she feels. See if she will play games with you that do not require a lot of talking. She might want to keep a journal and share it with you. I think you are on the right track. Raising kids is the hardest and most rewarding job you will ever have. Keep up the good work.

    • Good ideas. We kept a journal for a few months. I would write in it at night and she would write in it in the morning. It did not go so well, but she was a bit younger at the time. Perhaps I’ll try it again.

  • I like the letters idea. Because it’s an outlet to communicate without talking. And also, keep them. She will come to treasure the letters from her daddy. Not being an introvert myself, I understand. Nathanael is an introvert but not extremely so. In that we do a lot of things with other people that he enjoys. But then the next night he wants to stay home. All that to say that I think the way you enter her world at home (I.e. Have her in your lap for books and movies, going to find her rather than calling her down to join everyone else) are excellent ways of loving on her and letting her know it’s ok not to want to be on the middle of the activity.

    • It would have helped a lot if I would have married an introvert. I would have then been a bit more understanding.

      Thanks for the insight. I have found that the introverts in my life sometimes really enjoy spending time in groups and with people, but they need to be alone in order to recharge. I have also found that some of the extroverts in my life really love to be alone sometimes (like me), but tend to recharge when they get to be with others.

      I’m pretty pumped that you are reading the blog. Tell your husband I said hi.

  • My thoughts on “introvert” mesh with my thoughts on love languages. For me, I spent a lot of time solo, just because I thought people didn’t want me around, or found my presence a burden, and so I perceived rejection from people. My favorite companion was our family dog, who had no expectations of me and was always delighted to see me. You’ve seen how I interact with the girls, though – introvert-extrovert doesn’t seem to be that we fit in one box or the other, but we’re in different places along a spectrum between them.
    I married “an introvert with long batteries,” as he likes to call himself…meaning he can be pretty social for a long time, but then he needs to pull away and recharge. There’s a designated space in our home for this, and it’s recognized as “his” space. (I think this may also be part of growing up with a lot of boisterous siblings – having your “own” space, where things are quiet, is a TREASURE.)
    My primary love language is time, because it always seemed to be in such short supply, the most precious resource, so I’m constantly (silently) asking, “Am I worth spending time on? To you?” Gift of presence, and physical contact, when I know the other person has other things they could be working on, means a great deal. Conversation sometimes doesn’t happen here, just sharing an activity where we’re not focused on each other but sharing the activity with each other. Still fills my tank.
    My beloved sister is an introvert with precisely opposite love languages from mine. Taking up time that she needs elsewhere can be taken as disrespect, and physical touch can be irritating. It took a lot of observation to figure out that her question was, “Am I worth getting to know?” She enjoys praise (I take a lot of convincing to understand that praise is genuine), and conversation/little gifts that are in line with the things that interest her.

    There’s a love language book that’s specific to kids, if you’re interested (I know you’re crazy-busy and probably have little time for reading right now). I have a copy at Joanne’s.

    • Whether you meant to or not, you hit on something that I like to poke at sometimes. I think Extrovert/Introvert has less to do with hanging out with people than it does returning to a rested, peaceful state after doing something difficult or uncomfortable. Mark Driscoll calls himself an Introvert. My Chief, who hi jacks every formation or large group class, charges to the front of the group at the drop of a hat in order to talk, teach, and train. There are some Introvert personality types that are very commonly mistaken for extroverts because of the way they behave around others.

      I think the love language connection is a good one. Understanding those things will absolutely help us connect with the people in our lives. But it does not mean that it makes the barrier between Extrovert and Introvert smaller. Whether it is by doing something together, praising, giving gifts, etc., the Introvert reaction vs the Extrovert’s expected reaction can still be very different. That leaves me feeling often like I missed the target. Which makes knowing the language which the other people in my life speak very important indeed.

      Great connection between what I was talking about and the languages!

      Thanks for the comment.

  • A few more things and then I’ll be done:
    Scarred, scared…tomato, tom-ah-to. 🙂 I hate the English language and school is just making me lazy because I don’t want to look up anything unless I am forced to do so. Yes, I meant scared, rather than scarred.
    I have NO issues with being vulnerable in public places. Being too vulnerable to the wrong people is what I tend to struggle with.
    I just want to note, my parents have nothing to do with my insecurities. They are both introverts who can spend hours around extroverts and come home to recharge and be just fine to spend more hours with people around the next day. They actually helped me cultivate my introvert side and very much supported me by helping me know what I need. My insecurities come from my own observations of others. Being unable to voice my thoughts just lets them stew and often become twisted to make me feel insecure.
    This may be off topic a bit, but I just have to say it:
    My favorite thing about my dad is that he had a routine. He was a hard worker and gone a lot, but when he was home, he was very predictable. My dad never asked to spend time with me, but I knew he was always available to talk to no matter how busy he was. I knew that he was always awake at 5am and he would sit and spend time in the word and drink coffee until about 5:45 or 6. The deepest conversations I had with him about important life issues were talked about at 5am, next to him, on the couch, in the living room. I would set my alarm just to wake up and talk to him and be with him when I needed him. He was always there at that time. This was MY time with my daddy. My three other siblings never bothered us once at this time. 😀
    I am only able to write in a journal under two different circumstances. I journal about my quiet times in the morning. I really notice how the Holy Spirit can speak loud and clear through being able to journal out my time with God. The second time is when I am feeling an extreme emotion like anger, or joy. I don’t know that you can understand “voices in my head” like I do. They are multiple and jumbled up and don’t allow for any particular thought to come through my mouth or to be jotted down on paper. They are highly frustrating. Other introverts may be able to express themselves in different ways through art or writing. I just wish I could.

    • That was not a rabbit trail. That was good insight into the heart of an introverted little girl and what she valued about her daddy. The very topic of the post.

      I may not be able to understand the “voices in your head” like you, but I would say you did a good job at communicating just now.

      Thanks a lot. I really appreciate your input.

  • I would like to make a comment on “Doc’s” comment about, “our loud culture that values more extrovert tendencies?” I have been thinking about this for a day or so. I do think that much of our culture has extroverted tendencies. We have movie theaters, concerts, sporting events, parties, you name it. But, I also believe that there are quite a number of “introverted tendencies” also. Coffee shops, libraries, book stores, National Parks or state parks, art museums, anything where someone can be alone and “meditate.” But I do agree that these situations have to be sought out more than the extrovert tendencies. Which makes perfect sense to me. The extroverts are gonna be making their statements loud and proud and talking it up like its super cool and the next best thing, whereas the introverts are gonna be like, yeah, I relax, oh, you wanna know where? I think a lot of it is mindset. An extrovert will look for specific extrovert things and not necessarily notice the introverts, while the introverts will seek out their tendencies and consciously bypass that which makes them uncomfortable. Which brings me to my next point.

    Dassah and I were talking about this last night while we were trying to sleep. She said, “am I introverted because I am a sensory feeler?” She does not understand how some are introverted and others are extroverted. It was easy for me to explain this in the area of math and thinking through a problem versus feeling through a math equation. Does this mean that introverts cannot be extroverts? Does this mean that we should stick to our “mold” or our typeset personality and stay where we are comfortable, know the rules, boundaries, and whatnot? I do not think so. I believe God will create in us what He wants so that we can accomplish His desires for His glory. I also believe this means that when the time comes Dassah will be able to “give, give, give” and then give some more and not feel like she needs to withdraw to be re-filled. However, I also believe that this is where the body of Christ comes into play. If I know that someone is introverted, I can take a burden off them by giving them time alone and not pushing my agendas on them.

    And for one last note from the superb wisdom of the mother-in-law, “Jacob, normal is a setting on a washing machine.”

    • There are things in our culture that are introvert as well as extrovert, but I think our culture on a whole is an extroverted culture. When I think about anciet Japan, I think about a culture of people who are quiet, family focused, local community, and reverential thinkers. When I think about America as a whole, what I see is a lot of competing for attention, putting hands in the air, speaking loud, and trying to get others to be like us, by persuasive means or by force.

      “Normal is a setting on a washing machine…” Nice!! Tell your mother in law that I am adopting that.

      Should we “stick to the mold”… Well… I don’t think we are in the mold anymore. When we were young and soft and being formed, we were in the mold. We are clearly out of it now. I understand the question and it is one that I ask a lot to Jessica, me, and the folks I interact with. In the case of Dassah, who seems to get a bit worked up just meeting 1 on 1 with another woman, then the answer is that she absolutely needs to “push through” the discomfort. I think it is very similar to when I am sitting with people and they are sharing their life with me… I need to “push through” the analytic problem solving side of me and really listen and try to connect with them. This is brutal on me. But I must do it for the sake of the Kingdom.

      I think there are many times when my personality is uniquely called for and I really am deeply satisified and fulfilled being able to serve in that context. I also know that occasionaly serving outside of my “programmed” context has caused a lot of growth for me, which has helped me be more effecient or effective when I am serving from my “programming.”

      Good insight and comments! Thanks so much for posting.

  • Shared this with an introvert friend of mine here in the DC area. I think this is such good insight in your part, Mike. God is really growing you, man…

    • Who knew that Jessica and I would end up having an Introvert in our midst… And what must it be like for her to be raised in this house with such extroverts!!

  • Since she loves art, maybe try doing art activities or quiet games with pen and paper while you are together. Bring some ideas, but feel free to let her take the lead. It seems like you are really doing a good job of connecting with her already, but I understand feeling that something is wrong when she likes to be so quiet and you want to have a longer conversation! Two different personalities can be hard to balance, but you are already doing well with it, keep up the good work 🙂

    • Thanks so much. I have spent time coloring with my younger 2 and think about craft kind of things with them but never really think much about that for my older kids. I guess I accidentally fell into a trap that said she outgrew color book time with Daddy… I’ll engage with her sometime this week and spend time drawing with her and seeing where it goes from there. Thanks again for the comment.

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